Letter to the Editors: SGA’s Response to the Core Curriculum

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In response to the article ‘SAIS Core Courses in Question’ published in Volume 16, Issue 5:

Dear Editors,

As the student government representatives responsible for academic affairs on both the DC and Bologna campuses, we have been pleased to see The SAIS Observer covering the ongoing debate on the core curriculum. What the Observer articles missed, however, is the extensive student involvement in the conversation. In fact, the DC and Bologna SGAs have been working closely with the administration to ensure the opinions of all students are taken into consideration as SAIS contemplates the future of the core system.

When the administration first decided to revisit the cores, it actively sought out student input. In fact, in December 2013, the Curriculum and Standards Committee held a special meeting with student leaders and representatives from both campuses. In this meeting, we debated the core system: not only the relevance of the material, but also the way in which the tests are administered.

The main takeaway from that meeting is that students have diverse perspectives — and a lot of good ideas. We outlined these ideas in a white paper that we sent to the Committee, along with a number of recommendations to increase transparency surrounding the core system. We also believe that everyone at SAIS deserves a chance to weigh in. This is why the SGAs have worked with the administration to design a student survey on the core exams, which will be conducted in the coming weeks. This survey will gather information on what students see as the purpose of the cores; which tests they took, in what format, and why; and their suggested changes and improvements to the system. The administration will use the feedback from this survey as they work to redesign the core curriculum.

We think The SAIS Observer serves an important role in drawing attention to school issues and getting the conversation started. This, however, is not enough.  Students need not only to be informed of the issues, but also how they can proactively engage in these conversations and work to ensure that any changes made by the administration serve the student interest. We hope the Observer’s readers will take a few minutes to respond to this student-designed survey. The debate on the core curriculum is important to the future of SAIS and could affect the value of our degree. This survey is our chance to make our voices heard.


Allison Carragher (SAIS Washington SGA) and Giulia Motolese (SAIS Europe SGA)



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